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Skyward Sword HD is giving me a newfound appreciation for what was previously one of my least-favorite Zelda titles

Posted on July 14, 2021 by

Skyward Sword is actually a little better than I remember it – but it’s no all-timer.

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Let’s rip the band-aid off. I’ve been on the record saying it a lot, even on the recent editions of the VG247 podcast-that’s-not-a-podcast: I don’t think The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a truly great game. In the past, I’ve said that in much stronger and less friendly terms, too – but the new HD Remaster on Switch has me reconsidering my stance somewhat.

I’m not going to do a complete u-turn, though. I’ve said in the past that I think people who reviewed Skyward Sword and gave it such high scores that it managed a baffling 93/100 on Metacritic need to go have their head checked for a major concussion or something. It’s a deeply flawed game that was the last in a trilogy of deeply uneven 3D Zelda games on the GameCube and Wii. It remains that in this new format – but in some areas, my opinion has softened.

More than you’d perhaps feel from a rerelease of its also flawed siblings Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword feels like a product of its time. Even its name hints at its gimmick – referencing not just the skies Link traverses on his adventure but also the action of raising a sword skywards to perform the game’s motion-controlled signature move.

It’s difficult to play Skyward Sword HD and not constantly feel the foibles and difficulties of that era of gaming. On paper, the idea of having direct sword control is thrilling, and leads to some truly interesting enemy encounter design and great puzzles. These are moments, though, and a lot of the time you’ll also be struggling with the controls or simply spamming your way through it with a less than accurate wriggling of your wrist.

One big addition for the HD version of the game on Switch is the ability to play with button controls. This basically maps the right analogue stick to Link’s Sword – so you still have direct 1:1 control, but you’re simulating the movements you’d make with your hand on the thumbstick. It works really well, and Skyward Sword is structured in a way where the early parts of the game are fairly light on combat – which gives you ample time to ease your way into whichever control method you prefer.

This was my preferred method of play, but it comes with a hefty cost. New to this version is a completely free camera that is – you guessed it – controlled with the right stick. When using motion controls, you have constant control over the camera with a flick of that stick, which is great. In regular control mode, you can only tilt the camera when holding the R button, and obviously tilting the camera and using your sword are mutually exclusive activities. As a result the free camera isn’t very useful at all when not using motion, and you’ll instead find yourself using the lock-on button to constantly re-center the camera – something that was a major drawback of the original Wii version of the game.

When you look past the controls, however you might feel about them, many of the other quality of life adjustments are strong and additive. Sidekick Fi is now less chatty, with much of its nagging dialogue able to be triggered with a press of a button if you need some help. Cutscenes can be skipped, but better still dialogue boxes can be sped up by holding the B button. If you know what you’re doing, tutorials are skippable. The game no longer tells you the value of a Rupee every damn time you pick it up.

In this, a lot of the fluff that plagued Skyward Sword and made its pace utterly glacial has been pruned. The fat has been significantly trimmed, and it’s a better game for it. While it’s still absolutely BS that a decent time-saving feature is hidden behind an amiibo, the pace of the game is drastically improved by these changes.

In other places it’s a less impressive remaster, however. Nintendo says the graphics are improved, but it doesn’t seem the most huge of upgrades, comparable to simply running the Wii original in the Dolphin emulator with bells and whistles enabled. The higher resolution presentation arguably highlights the deficiencies of the character models, which have the same sort of ugly uncanniness to them as in Twilight Princess; Nintendo finally nailed the look of non-chibi, high polygon 3D Zelda with Breath of the Wild. Those advances aren’t present here. It’s the game as you remember it.

Except, for me, it isn’t. Or not quite. My memories of Skyward Sword have, until now, been largely muddied by how rough other aspects of its experience were on Wii – but now, on Switch, I appreciate it far more.

Its dungeon design is excellent, for instance. While it follows traditional Zelda tropes, the structure of the game is just different enough to entice and surprise. The sky is no more populous or interesting than Wind Waker’s Great Sea, but there’s still a unique exhilaration to sweeping through the sky on a Loftwing. And here, while wordy and slothenly paced, is the most in-depth story the Zelda series has ever told, trending far more towards anime than any other entry. In this game, Zelda is not just a macguffin, but a character you actually might begin to care about.

There’s also the Breath of the Wild similarities. What I now appreciate is that there probably would not have been a BOTW without SS; Skyward walked and in some cases just barely crawled so that Breath could run wild. Concepts like stamina, equipment degradation, and the glider all find their feet here. Every one of these feels worse than in the next game; the sailcloth is perhaps the best example in that it doesn’t feel good to use – it’s functional, but stiff and boring, whereas its BOTW successor, the paraglider, is dynamic and thrilling. But one still has to appreciate its origins here.

As the first 3D Zelda I’ve replayed since BOTW, I’m also enjoying the elements of classic Zelda that are present here, like more traditional dungeon design and a Hyrule more focused on the granular detail than the bigger picture. Skyward isn’t exactly smaller in scope than the games that came before it, but the limited nature of its controls mean that there’s restraint in almost every other aspect of its design – which gives it a fairly unique flow and texture that I now appreciate much more without Fi interrupting me every thirty seconds.

I haven’t finished the game yet, which is why this isn’t a scored review – but with every additional hour I spend with Skyward Sword HD, my appreciation for the game and respect for what its team was attempting rises. It’s not a perfect ten, or even a nine, but it’s also not a bad game. It might be one of the worst Zelda games simply on balance of the various compromises made to make that core motion control feature work – but one of the things that makes Zelda special, I suppose, is that a lower-tier Zelda is still a pretty good game in the grand scheme of things. Except those CDi ones, obviously.

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PC Gamer plays: Nier Automata, Trials of Fire, Mundaun, and Elite Dangerous Nier: Automata

Posted on July 14, 2021 by


Once more, the PC Gamer team returns from the far-flung frontiers of gaming to report on their adventures and discoveries. This month, Steven grapples with the idiosyncrasies of Nier: Automata, Robin explores the influence of tabletop gaming in Trials of Fire, Rachel goes horror hiking in the spooky Swiss Alps of Mundaun, and Matt attempts to play Elite Dangerous with a five year old.

Learning to love Nier: Automata's weirdness – Steven Messner

I am an idiot for not playing more of Nier: Automata when it first came out. Yoko Taro’s hybrid RPG-meets-brawler-meets-shoot-’em-up caught my interest the first time I played it back in 2017, but after getting to the end of the first of its many endings I just didn’t stick with it. Nier: Automata had me a little confused. I just didn’t get it at first. But I do now.

I’ve been replaying Nier: Automata in anticipation of Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139… (yes, that’s it’s actual name), the remade prequel released this month. Also, it’s summer and there’s not a whole lot of new games to play. But I’m so glad I randomly decided to give Automata a second chance.

The way it blends genres is sublime, which is something I think I took for granted the first time I was playing it. It’s an RPG but with Platinum Games’ signature brawler combat, and occasionally it deviates into whole other genres like bullet-hell shooters. Mid-fight you’ll jump into a flight suit and suddenly be in an on-rails section, having to dodge projectiles littering the screen while shooting down enemy ships. It’s all extremely cool, and it makes Automata feel unpredictable in a way RPGs rarely do.

The combat is a lot of fun and I’ve begun to appreciate all the clever ways the RPG progression systems change and tweak it. Basic attacks and abilities can all be powered up by different chips, of which you can only equip a certain amount. But what’s brilliant is that these chips aren’t just for your combat abilities. The entire UI, like health bars and experience bars, are only displayed if you equip the proper chips. You can turn it all off if you want to squeeze out some extra attack damage, but then you’ll be flying blind. It’s brilliant.

(Image credit: Platinum Games)

Nier has tons of weird quirks like this. The first time I played it, I think I just found this all a little confusing and odd. But over the past few years I’ve really come to adore games that aren’t obsessed with being perfectly balanced and smoothed over. Friction is fun—especially when that friction forces you to engage with a game in unexpected ways.

The story is hitting a lot better for me too. One of Automata’s weaknesses is that it buries you under a mountain of sidequests which are mostly forgettable. I painstakingly completed as many of them as I could the first time around, I think that’s partly why I ultimately abandoned the game before properly finishing it. This time around, I’m skipping a good chunk of them and focusing on the story and it’s coming together in a much more engrossing way because I’m not taking hours-long detours between each twist.

I still haven’t quite beaten it yet, but Nier: Automata is quickly becoming one of my favourite games ever. It’s just so wholly unique—and that’s a hard thing to come by, especially in big-budget games that are typically made to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Nier: Automata is a treasure.

Making a token effort in Trials of Fire – Robin Valentine

(Image credit: Whatboy Games)

Since the very beginning of the hobby, videogames have been hugely influenced by tabletop games – but some certainly wear that influence a lot more on their sleeve than others. Trials of Fire is a roguelike that combines about as many mechanics inspired by tabletop games as you possibly could. Turn-based combat over a hex-grid, like a board game; character actions dictated by the drawing of cards from a deck, as in a CCG; levelling up, loot, and narrative events that trace their origins back to pen-and-paper role-playing.

Clever twists—like having to burn cards to gain the ‘willpower’ you need to fuel other cards, constantly forcing tough decisions—make all the difference. e

It all comes together wonderfully. Despite combining so many well-worn ideas (and having so much competition in the rapidly expanding roguelike word salad genre) its fights feel like a refreshingly different take on turn-based strategy. Clever twists—like having to burn cards to gain the ‘willpower’ you need to fuel other cards, constantly forcing tough decisions—make all the difference. It feels like a platter of established concepts given an exciting new flavour by some inventive seasonings.

But my favourite thing about Trials of Fire is that it’s not just inspired by its cardboard-and-paper predecessors in mechanics, but in its visuals too. As a modest budget game from a relatively small team, it was never going to be a graphical powerhouse. But where other teams might have gone for something like a retro pixel-art look or basic 3D models, Trials of Fire instead leans into its roots by representing all characters with counters.

(Image credit: Whatboy Games)

These look like little plastic discs with some art of the hero or monster printed on top. As you move them around, they clack pleasantly onto the field. Sparking spell effects erupt incongruously out of them to blast towards enemies and slide them around the field. When hit by an attack, they jump and clatter about like someone’s got upset at board game night and slammed the table. In motion it’s a really striking and very endearing look, and one I would never have thought I’d find so impressive.

I’ve talked in previous issues about looking for a sense of physicality – there’s a satisfaction to picking up and placing a tangible object in a board game that videogames aren’t often interested in recreating. When a rare example can capture a little of that magic, I can’t help but be charmed.

Grappling with myths and monsters in hand-pencilled folk horror Mundaun – Rachel Watts

(Image credit: MWM Interactive)

Switzerland’s rolling hills and snowy peaks seem like the ideal destination for a bit of peace and quiet. But in the horror game Mundaun, instead of being charmed by Swiss countryside, my first day in the snowy Alps ended with me scrambling around in the dark fending off monstrous wicker men with a broken pitchfork. My first day in town has been, in a word, surreal. The game’s heavy charcoal hand-drawn visuals really should have been my first clue that this was not going to be the getaway I had envisioned.

A little bit of context: you play as a young man named Curdin, who has returned to the secluded rural village of Mundaun after receiving a troubling letter. The local priest has written that Curdin’s grandfather has tragically died in a barn fire, but don’t worry—the funeral and burial have all been sorted, and there’s no reason why you should ever need to return to Mundaun, ever. So, of course, you go to investigate…

I search what is left of the barn, and my soul leaves my body as I come face-to-face with old grandpappy himself, the white of his open eyes standing out against the charred remains of the rest of his body.

After leaving the safety of the bus and a short hike later, I finally arrive at Mundaun and I’m immediately greeted by the burnt husk of my grandfather’s barn. I search what is left of the barn, and my soul leaves my body as I come face-to-face with old grandpappy himself, the white of his open eyes standing out against the charred remains of the rest of his body. That’s not all that lurks inside the barn, and within the ashy remains, something grabs my hand – a ghost, a phantom, or something else entirely. As they let go, I look down at my hand to see that it’s turned burnt and black like scorched tree bark.

But the troubles of my first day in Mundaun don’t end there. As I amble through the quaint meadows and peaks, I meet a stone-faced little girl who has only goats for friends and a hysterical priest who babbles on about demons, his church defiled with scrawlings of hellish retribution. They’re not much for company, and an uneasy feeling starts to sink in of just how alone and vulnerable I am.

(Image credit: MWM Interactive)

Night begins to set in and as I head back to grandpa’s house I hear a hollow wailing. Peeking around a tree I see a group of ominous wicker men. They look like the monsters you’d see in bedtime stories meant to spook children, and would almost seem comical if it wasn’t for the incessant howling. As I try to defend myself with my broken pitchfork, I fumble for the box of matches in my bag, set these thankfully very flammable monsters ablaze, and run for the house, slamming the door behind me to block out their screams.

It’s only been one day in Mundaun but I already feel completely out of my depth. Delving into this village’s long-forgotten history feels like I’ve fallen head-first off the side of one of the mountains, hurtling down into the snowy depths. The Swiss Alps in Mundaun are certainly enchanting, but for all the wrong reasons.

Teaching a five-year-old to play Elite Dangerous – Matt Killeen

(Image credit: Frontier)

Playing Elite: Dangerous is like parenting—you are continually overestimating and underestimating the abilities of both your ship and child. You think your Vulture could just take on that wing of Deadly-ranked Eagles after an hour of swatting away sad little gangsters, then find yourself floating home. Similarly, my five-year-old son’s suggestion that he play that game where you “become like a police officer, but not, and shoot space pirates” should have given me pause.

However, after a lockdown grinding the Lego Star Wars games past the point where anything has maintained its lustre, I thought this was a good idea.

However, after a lockdown grinding the Lego Star Wars games past the point where anything has maintained its lustre, I thought this was a good idea. Elite has been woven into my being for 37 years. Could I hand down my love of the big black?

Besides, while bounty hunters are pretty much the bad guys in Star Wars, Elite: Dangerous promises a chance to be the police. At his age, conflict and goodies vs baddies are fundamental building blocks for child development. I wanted to encourage this tendency towards Lawful Good. His record as co-op gunner wasn’t good. He once shot a federal security Viper, whose friends turned my ship into a 40 million credit cloud of tinfoil. But we can’t play the simulations, as he wants it to be real. So, I bought him his own Sidewinder, and enough ARX to paint it, install the unnecessary fins and gills, and give his Holo-Me an unpleasant Action Man scar. Thus, the Small Attacker was born.

(Image credit: Frontier)

Of course, you can’t start out as a bounty hunter with just nominative determinism. He wanted an Anaconda, the apex predator of the Resource Extraction Site (Medium). But these monsters cost more credits than I have made in my 300+ hours. I was more worried about how he’d handle the difficult docking and launch process, but it turns out things have changed since my day. All ships start with a docking computer as standard. That precipitous learning curve is now a gentle slope, and to my immense pride, he breezed through the tutorial.

As soon he had his pilot’s licence, he suddenly wanted to be a miner. He found a High Tech system, purchased a mining laser, installed a refinery and headed for the nearest ringed planet. But when he got there, he just moved from asteroid to asteroid, carving gashes along their sides with his laser. Then I saw that he was actually writing his name.

There is an exquisite tension between what you want for your children, and what they are. Elite: Dangerous, like life, offers choice. You can be the scourge of the galaxy, go quietly about your business, or just muck about. It’s about doing your own thing, and he was. “Do my name next,” I told him.

Fall Guys Season 5 kicks off a Jungle Adventure

Posted on July 14, 2021 by

The theme for the next season of Fall Guys has been revealed.

As Fall Guys players have come to expect from the bumbling bean people simulator, every season in the game’s live service comes with a distinct theme.

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Now, Fall Guys developer Mediatonic has revealed that Season 5 has a jungle adventure theme. The game’s official Twitter account shared an early look at the Season 5 art, showing a number of new skins. There’s the classic explorer attire, a pirate costume, and couple of other silly outfits.

The season art also shows some animals, and what look to be new obstacles, including the possibility of mud being a new addition.

The reveal followed a brief teaser where players were asked to solve a jigsaw puzzle on Twitter, which they did in just over an hour, revealing the theme of the new season.

We’re still not sure when Season 5 is going to start. Fall Guys seasons don’t follow set time tables; Season 4 has been the game’s longest so far, but I imagine the start date – and a new trailer – aren’t too far behind.

The post Fall Guys Season 5 kicks off a Jungle Adventure appeared first on VG247.

Diablo 2: Resurrected to get a bigger stash and much more thanks to feedback

Posted on July 14, 2021 by

Diablo 2: Resurrected

Blizzard Entertainment will be making some substantial changes to Diablo 2: Resurrected following feedback it received during the game’s technical alpha.

If you played the Diablo 2: Resurrected alpha back when it kicked off in April and gave Blizzard some feedback on your experiences, chances are you’ve shaped a better final product.

Blizzard has posted a very in-depth look at the various player reactions to the technical alpha and has detailed what changes it will make to the game before it hits PC and consoles in September. One of the most notable updates is the addition of two more tabs for the shared stash, increasing inventory space once again. You all just love collecting loot too much, apparently.

When it comes to a player’s personal storage chest, we understand it’s serious business,” Blizzard noted. “This change will enable players to better organize their loot across three tabs (100 slots each) of storage space and store many more items.”

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Blizzard will also be tinkering with how levels load in, after lots of players complained they would take damage by loading into a hostile area before they even gained control of their characters. Oops.

Elsewhere, the developer has explained that some visual effects will be updated – players didn’t seem to think the sorceress’ blizzard spell was impactful enough (gentle snow? Pah!) and Blizzard will be making that more intense in the final version of the game.

Some UI elements are being overhauled, too: colors are being rethought to make things like potions stick out a bit more against their grey backgrounds, for example. A clock is also being added to make sure you can keep track of just how long you’re sinking into that hellish world.

If you’re keen to try out more of the game ahead of its launch, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s due to get a beta in August. Anyone with a pre-order will be able to join.

Diablo 2: Resurrected arrives on September 23 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch.

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The best Skyrim Special Edition mods One of the best Skyrim Special Edition mods – Vilja

Posted on July 14, 2021 by


Several years into its life, the best Skyrim Special Edition mods have caught up to the best in Oldrim modding. Many of our favorites from the original have been ported across, so you may recognize some of those on this list. But there are plenty of new mods as well—nearly a decade into its life, Skyrim and this better-performing Special Edition are still fertile ground for new creations. Boot up your mod manager of choice, because Skyrim modding hasn't slowed down in 2021.

Oldrim Modding

Looking for mods for the original version of Skyrim? We've selected over 100 of the best mods for improved visuals and optimization, new quests and locations, roleplaying and immersion, creatures and NPCs, and much more. These are the best Skyrim mods.

Skyrim Script Extender wasn't compatible with Skyrim: Special Edition at launch, but has been for a while now (it'll be labelled "Current SE build" at that link). Once it's installed, go into Skyrim Special Edition's properties in Steam and set it to "Only update this game when I launch it" and launch Skyrim with skse64_loader.exe,  as otherwise every update to the creation club will break the Script Extender and you'll have to download a new version.

Thanks to the Script Extender, essentials like SkyUI are now available in this slightly prettier (it does have nicer shadows), and more stable (you can alt-tab as much as you like, and weigh it down with more mods) version of Skyrim. To be fair, there were other changes as well

Some of the following Skyrim Special Edition mods can be found on Bethesda's site, but the links we'll post all point to our go-to, NexusMods.

Mods added in recent updates of this list have been marked with a ⭐. And if you're looking to have even more fun in Skyrim, check out our list of Skyrim console commands.

The best Skyrim Special Edition mods

Mod managing

It's easy to get carried away modding Skyrim Special Edition very quickly. To help you keep track of all your various additions, be sure to use a mod manager of some sort. Here are the ones we suggest you try out.

Vortex 

For downloading, installing, and managing these Skyrim Special Edition mods and others, we recommend Vortex. It's an extremely useful utility, and it works with a number of other games like the Fallout series, the Witcher series, Darks Souls, XCOM 2, and lots more.

Mod Organizer 2

As an alternative to Vortex, Mod Organizer 2 is meant for modders who plan to do a lot of experimenting with installing and uninstalling various mods. It handles a bunch of Bethesda games, so you can use it to manage things other than just Skyrim SE if you'd like.

Patches, UI, and cheats

We all know the reputation Bethesda's games have. Plenty of fans have taken it upon themselves to fix bugs, optimize systems, and make user interface more to their liking. 

Unofficial Skyrim Patch

This mod is a compendium of hundreds of fixes for bugs, text, objects, items, quests, and gameplay elements assembled by prolific modder Arthmoor. The patch is designed to be as compatible as possible with other mods. If you've got a few hours, you can read through the patch notes.

SkyUI

The heavens parted, golden saints sang, and SkyUI was finally supported by Skyrim Special Edition. This interface replacer makes Skyrim feel like it was designed for mouse controls, and lets you filter and sort inventory based on weight, value, damage and the like. Also adds an in-game mod configuration menu several other mods rely on.

Better MessageBox Controls

Increases the clickable areas of menu items so they're the actual width of the item rather than just an absurd little square in the middle of it. You have no idea how much better this tiny quality-of-life tweak makes things. It also improves the keyboard controls in a few ways. For instance, tab will always take you back a stage and enter will let you select an option even when you're crafting and would normally have to mouse back over it.

A Quality World Map 

Skyrim's map is functional but boring. A Quality World Map offers multiple ways to fix it. It can replace the map with a much more detailed world texture, with colors that help delineate the separate areas much more obviously, but there's also an option to have a paper map, with a more Oblivion look, if that's your thing. 

Achievements Mod Enabler

Just because you're modding doesn't mean you're cheating (necessarily). So why does the SSE disable achievements if you've got mods running? Stick it to 'em by using this plugin from xSHADOWMANx that lets you earn achievements even while using mods.

Project Proteus

(Image credit: phenderix)

While you could switch to another savegame to play your Khajiit archer for a while, Project Proteus lets you import your characters into an existing world state—meaning you can switch to a character with their own items, skills, and spells, but keep your current quest progression. NPCs who have died remain dead, items left in storage can be retrieved, and so on. It also lets you edit NPCs and items, even the weather. Some of what Project Proteus makes possible is already doable with Skyrim's console commands and existing mods, but this brings it all together in a single pop-up menu. 

Racemenu

An improved character creation menu, with numeric displays for all sliders, and the ability to choose any color for your hair, skin, or other tints rather than being limited based on race. There's a sculpt mode if you want to get right into messing with the geometry of your head, and you can turn the light illuminating your face on and off to see how your features will look in different situations, which is a blessing

True 3D Sound for Headphones

"This mod enables true 3D sound for Skyrim SE by using a so called HRTF to simulate binaural hearing using normal stereo headphones. You will hear exactly from which direction a sound is coming from." I don't know exactly what that first sentence means, but I understand the second one. Make SSE more realistic for your ears with this mod from CptYouaredead. You'll also definitely want to check out Immersive Sounds for a huge overhaul of Skyrim's sound effects.

Quests and Locations

Skyrim may be a huge place, but modders are always finding ways to make it bigger. We've collected some really impressive location overhauls to expand your Skyrim experience along with some huge quest mods to take you on new adventures.

The Forgotten City

Skyrim's got lots of adventure, but here's about 10 hours more courtesy of writer and developer Nick Pearce. Play detective and solve a murder mystery while exploring a massive, ancient city. It's got excellent, award-winning writing, a non-linear story, fantastic voice acting by a large cast, an enjoyable original soundtrack, and even a touch of time travel. Here's our write-up of the Forgotten City Skyrim mod. It's also been adapted into a standalone game set in ancient Rome.

Legacy of the Dragonborn 

Adds a gallery you can fill with unique items, a museum to your achievements that is also a library, a storage facility, a questline of its own, and a place to learn archaeology complete with its own perks. While there is a version of Legacy of the Dragonborn for Oldrim, the v5 update specifically for Special Edition remaps the building to make it larger and more like a real museum.

Enderal: Forgotten Stories (Special Edition)

(Image credit: Bethesda, modded by SureAI)

This total conversion creates an entirely new world, very nearly the size of Skyrim itself, and populates it with new dungeons, quests, monsters, and fully voiced NPCs. Some of Skyrim's systems have also been tweaked, there's a new custom story to enjoy, and a good 50+ hours of new adventures to be hard. You can read about the opening hours of Enderal here

Vigilant SE

Vigilant is a four-part quest mod that adds some Dark Souls flair to Tamriel. After getting stuck in Oblivion, you'll face off against otherworldly monsters and big, Souls-style bosses while exploring areas filled with special items and keys. Beyond that, the 'Anvil of Zenithar' allows players to craft their own wares after finishing objectives, besting bosses and reaching new areas. Vigilant Voiced adds voice-acting.

You can also snag the same modder's Bloodborne-themed adventure called Glenmoril.

Moonpath to Elsweyr

Moonpath to Elsweyr was one of the first quest mods for Oldrim back in the day. It's made its way to SSE now with its two new regions and custom quests. In Jody's Moonpath spotlight he talks to its original creator.

Helgen Reborn

(Image credit: Mike Hancho)

Who's going to rebuild Helgen after it got toasted by a dragon at the beginning of the game? You are, of course. It's a huge, fully voiced quest mod where you'll restore the town, choose a faction, and fight in the new arena. Chris wrote about Helgen Reborn years ago for Oldrim, so we're psyched to replay it in SSE.

Cutting Room Floor

Another big mod from Arthmoor restores loads of content that exists in SSE's data files but wasn't implemented in the game. Numerous locations, NPCs, dialogue, quests, and items have been brought back into the light, and Skyrim is richer for it.

JK's Skyrim

Skyrim Special Edition mod - JK's Windhelm

(Image credit: Bethesda, modded by Jkrojmal and Teabag86)

Download link

This big construction overhaul mod redesigns all of Skyrim's major cities and some settlements as well. Every city has been reimagined to more distinctly fit its own theme with new buildings and vendors. It doubles as an immersion mod as well, with local banners and guards changing allegiance as Skyrim's civil war develops.

The Asteria Dwemer Airship

There are player home mods to suit all tastes, but the Asteria is a particularly nice one—a flying ship with all mod cons, by which I mean storage space and crafting tables. It's permanently docked, however, and can't be moved around, though it does have a teleporter for a more immersive alternative to fast-travel. If you want a flyable skyship, try the Dev Aveza.

Visual mods

Even with Skyrim Special Edition, there's still plenty of room to make Tamriel prettier. Modders have updated how characters look and added higher resolution textures, among other things, to put a new shine on the game.

Climates of Tamriel

(Image credit: JJC71)

Climates of Tamriel is a huge overhaul adding new weather types, new lighting, and clouds. It can make night-time darker as well for a more immersive adventuring experience. There's even a winter version that covers even more of Skyrim in snow.

Realistic Water Two

(Image credit: Isoku)

Realistic Water Two, drawing and expanding on the work of some earlier water mods, adds better ripples, larger splashes, re-textured foam and faster water flow in streams, bobbing chunks of ice, and even murky, stagnant-looking water in dungeons. For all your extremely realistic screenshot-taking needs.

Total Character Makeover

Skyrim's NPCs already looked dated when the game was first released, and they certainly haven't aged well. The SSE might improve the looks of the world, but it doesn't touch its citizens, so this mod from Scaria should be on your list. It gives everyone in the game (including your avatar) a facelift with more detailed textures that won't kneecap your framerate, without making characters look out of place.

Vanilla Hair Replacer

(Image credit: Bethesda, modded by preeum)

We can all agree Bethesda's RPGs aren't often stunners in the hair department. So many hair mods get carried away turning characters into models, though. Vanilla Hair Replacer aims for more lore-friendly changes for Skyrim's default hair choices so NPCs look a less scraggly but still like they hail from Skyrim. Be sure to check the "recommended mods" section of the page to get your characters looking exactly like the ones in the screenshots.

Static Mesh Improvements

While Skyrim Special Edition adds plenty of enhanced visuals, it doesn't do a thing to improve the original game's low-poly meshes. This mod edits hundreds of 3D models placed in thousands of different locations for items like furniture, clutter, architectural elements, and landscape objects to make them look nicer and more realistic.

Glorious Doors of Skyrim

(Image credit: Bethesda, modded by Hype1)

Hear me out. Aside from NPC's faces, what are you going to have your nose up against in Skyrim most often? Well yeah, enemies, but also doors! Modder "Hype1" has created lots of new door meshes with glorious 4k textures so you'll never be stuck picking the lock on a low-res door again. While you're at it, Book Covers is a mod that will make books as beautiful as they deserve to be.

Companions and Creatures

Skyrim is an even more beautiful place thanks to the visual mods and new locations on this list, but you'll want to populate it with interesting people too. These mods add some of our favorite companion characters, and some cool creatures for them to fight too.

Shirley

(Image credit: Modder The Circantolius)

This companion mod is a particularly sweet one, based on popular octogenarian YouTuber Shirley Curry, otherwise known as the "Skyrim Grandma". Created by fans and voiced by Curry herself, the Shirley companion shares Curry's likeness. Tamriel's Shirley has her own lore-appropriate backstory too. After you've completed her recruitment quest, Shirley will join you, fighting alongside you as a barbarian warrior—Curry's preferred combat style. Curry has already started playing with the mod herself, which you can catch the beginning of in her new video series

Inigo

(Image credit: Bethesda, modded by Smartbluecat)

Maybe you don't think a blue Khajiit who follows you around commenting on everything and being sarcastic about Lydia is what Skyrim needs, but trust us on this. Inigo has tons of dialogue, some tied to his own questline and more that crops up at appropriate times depending on the location you're at. He can be told where to go and what to do by whistling, and will follow you even if you've got an existing companion, chatting away with them thanks to skilfully repurposed voice lines.

Vilja in Skyrim

(Image credit: Emma Amgepo Lycanthrops)

A sequel to a much-loved Oblivion mod (which Terry Pratchett contributed to), Vilja in Skyrim adds the great-granddaughter of the original Vilja as a follower. She's an alchemist with her own questline to follow and a unique system to give her orders—essentially spells bound to hotkeys that can be used to co-ordinate attacks. Like Inigo she doesn't count toward your follower limit, and if introduced to each other Inigo and Vilja will even chat among themselves. 

Yennefer of Vengerberg

(Image credit: Modded by Levionte | Image by IINoshikuII )

Will we ever tire of crossovers between our favorite big RPGs? No, we definitely will not. This follower mod adds a custom-made Yennefer that re-purposes her lines of dialogue from The Witcher 3. She dual wields magic, of course. Sadly, she isn't eligible for marriage. The same modder has also made a Ciri follower mod and contributed to mods for Geralt and Triss followers all based on their Wild Hunt selves.

Amazing Follower Tweaks

This extremely popular mod for Oldrim is one you'll want to grab the Special Edition version of too. It lets you micromanage a lot of details about your companions like their gear, how to fight, and which of your many houses to live in.

Convenient Horses

(Image credit: Modded by Alek | Image by DokQZ)

This mod makes having a horse much less of a headache. You can have conversations from horseback. You can loot and gather herbs while mounted. Your followers can even buy and ride their own horses instead of sprinting helplessly behind you. 

Diverse Dragons Collection

Despite the Special Edition's visual overhaul, its dragons are still a bit ho-hum. This mod, contributed to by a large collection of modders, adds 28 new and unique dragons with different models and textures, and capable of over a dozen new breath attacks and abilities. The dragons come in different ranks as well, to ensure you have a challenge no matter what your level.

Strigoi – Enhanced Vampire Encounters

(Image credit: Tx12001)

With Strigoi installed, whenever vampires spawn there's a chance to meet some of its new varieties of bloodsucker. These powered-up undead might turn into bats, throw you around, or just generally be a lot tougher than regular vampires.

Insects Begone

(Image credit: Chesko)

Why is it always spiders in RPGs? Well, it doesn't have to be. Insects Begone replaces all the spiders and chaurus insects with bears and skeevers instead. It also removes decorative spiderwebs and other spider-related decor. If you can't deal with all the giant spiders plaguing Skyrim, this mod will squash them.

Magic, combat, and skills

If being the Dragonborn isn't enough, these mods give you new abilities to tinker with. Some are mundane skills like additional crafting abilities, others are new shouts and spells to play with.

Arcanum: A New Age of Magic

Skyrim: Special Edition mod - Arcanum

(Image credit: Kosorsomesaykosm)

Arcanum is a huge addition to Skyrim's magic system. It lets you summon tornados and meteors among many other feats. It doesn't just throw all these new skills at you as soon as it's installed, though. Arcanum is great for starting a new playthrough of Skyrim with because unlocking spells is a more lore-friendly journey of custom quests, crafting, and adventuring. 

Combat Gameplay Overhaul

CGO strikes a great balance for those wanting a bit more out of Skyrim's combat without turning it into too much of a fast-paced action game. It adds the ability to dodge roll, which surprisingly looks pretty decent in first-person. There's also the ability to switch between one- and two-handed grips to change how attacks land. Oh, and you can attack in midair, along with lots of other smaller tweaks.

Modder "DServant" also created the Archery Gameplay Overhaul which takes a similarly even-handed approach to improving bow use.

Wildcat – Combat of Skyrim

Wildcat is a much heavier combat overhaul, and an extremely popular one. It makes combat more deadly with increased damage and stamina use, but that's not all. It also adds an injury system where taking enough damage has a chance to give you a serious injury that could knock you down, unequip your weapon, or give you other dangerous effects. It rewards you for properly timed blocks and for attacks of opportunity while enemies are performing other actions too. 

Sneak Tools SE

(Image credit: Haytur)

For the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood members among us, Sneak Tools adds extra functionality to being good at hiding. Instead of just a damage bonus, you can kill NPCs from behind with daggers, knock them out with fists, and assassinate them while they're sleeping. You can douse torches and arrows to better sneak through the shadows and use a bunch of new arrow types with sneaky benefits.

Ars Metallica – Smithing Enhancement

When you're not playing a metal-plated tank, there's less use for smithing. Archers, thieves, and other stealthy characters have no issues finding light armor on their adventures, so there's never been much reason to make it themselves. This mod by Arthmoor gives slippery sorts reasons to learn smithing by letting them forge arrows, lockpicks, and guild-specific armor, as well as melt down bulkier armor they'd never actually wear into ingots.

Roleplaying, survival, and immersion

Roleplaying and immersion mods are all aimed at making Skyrim Special Edition feel just a bit more real. 

No NPC Greetings – Reduced Range Greetings

Sick of NPCs repeating the same catchphrase from across the street every time they see you? Sick of guards commenting on your best skills, which they somehow know all about just by looking at you—even Sneak? This mod has a few options for fixing the issue, whether you want to reduce the distance these barks trigger at, or get rid of them altogether.

Simply Knock SE

(Image credit: Chesko)

Sometimes you don't want to break into someone's home and have the local guard after you. Instead of lockpicking, this mod gives you the option to just, you know, knock on the door. If someone is home they might answer, giving you the option to earn entry with your speech abilities. If they don't answer, then get your lockpicks out.

Skyrim Fishing SE

(Image credit: RichWebster)

Hear us out, fishing in Skyrim is good. It's a great addition for survival playthroughs. No more fishing with your hands—there are fishing poles, nets, bait, and even Dwarven "explosive" fishing. You can even catch some junk to sell.

Alternate Start – Live Another Life

If you're playing Special Edition, you're starting from scratch whether you're a newcomer to Skyrim or a veteran. Why not start your new game as someone other than the Dragonborn? Alternate Start—again, by Arthmoor—is a roleplaying mod that gives you choices on how you'd like to begin your next playthrough. Are you a patron at in inn, a visitor arriving by boat, a prisoner in a jail cell, or a member of a guild? You can start as a soldier, an outlaw, a hunter, even a vampire. It's a great way to re-experience Skyrim from a different perspective, and skip the tutorial while you're at it.

Open Cities

It's a little immersion-breaking to enter a city through a gate and encounter a loading screen. Open Cities aims for more of a Morrowind feel: the cities aren't instances, they're part of the larger world. Stroll right in—or ride in on horseback—without a break in your experience, and these cities will feel more like real places than loaded-in maps.

Opening Scene Overhaul

This mod, by elderscrolliangamer, changes and enhances Skyrim's opening sequence by restoring dialogue that Bethesda chose to cut, but which is still present in the game files. With that content restored, you'll learn more about the world you're preparing to inhabit by listening in on additional conversations and seeing full sequences that were snipped before release. Best of all, if you choose to side with the Stormcloaks, you'll actually be able to escape Helgen with Ulfric himself at your side.

Relationship Dialogue Overhaul

This mod by cloudedtruth adds thousands of lines of voiced dialogue for NPCs to make you feel like you have a closer and more personal relationship with followers and friends. Your spouse will no longer sound like a random follower, but address you in a more personal manner, and those you've angered will have a host of new insults to hurl your way.

Frostfall and Campfire

Skyrim Console Commands

Skyrim Mod: Santa

(Image credit: Bethesda)

There's no need to play Skyrim as a humble warrior. Become a giant, fly, walk through walls, spawn any item you want, and even become Santa Claus with Skyrim console commands, and give yourself every item in the game with Skyrim item codes.

Looking to turn SSE into a survival experience? Then bundle up and look no further. These mods from Chesko make the frosty world of Skyrim more dangerous more immersive and enjoyable with a system that makes you manage your temperature in the cold climate. Hypothermia is an issue, especially if you swim through icy water, so you'll have to dress warmly, and camping elements include craftable tents, torches, and other gear. There's even a crafting skill system.

Also, check out Wet and Cold, which adds weather-dependent visual effects and sounds.

Positive Undressed Reactions

What could possibly be more immersive than walking around in your underclothes and being lavished with compliments by strangers? OK, maybe it's not that immersive but it is a fun one. On top of that, this mod also uses a very cool new AI-based voice synthesis tool called SKVA Synth to create some of its voice lines.

An ‘undetectable’ and ‘unstoppable’ cheat was taken down at Activision’s request

Posted on July 14, 2021 by


(Image credit: User Vision)

User Vision Pro was an aim-assist and auto-fire cheat that gained some attention recently thanks to YouTube demonstrations showing what it could achieve in Call of Duty: Warzone. Those videos have now been taken offline, but you can see what was being shown off thanks to Twitter's Anti-Cheat Police Department. The video claimed User Vision Pro would work on "any game" and on consoles as well as PC, be "undetectable" and "unstoppable" and also "extreamly [sic] fast".

Ars Technica broke down how it works. Basically, software running on a second computer that the game's being streamed to analyzes what it's seeing, identifies enemies, and then—via third-party hardware like the Cronus Zen, which was at the centre of a recent Warzone cheating accusation involving a world record holder—takes over the controls to ensure a cheating player lands the shot.

The fact the script ran on a separate computer and didn't modify any game files supposedly made it undetectable, although of course a player suddenly going from no-hoper to no-scoper would still be noticeable. Whether User Vision Pro could really live up to its promise is academic, since its website has now been shut down. All that remains is a statement from the cheat's creator, User101.

It reads:

Team,

This statement was not required.

However, at the request of Activision Publishing, Inc (“Activision”), I will no longer be developing or providing access to software that could be used to exploit their games. My intent was never to do anything illegal. At the end of the video that brought so much attention to this project, it stated “coming soon”. The software was never published.

This type of technology has other actual assistive benefits, for example, by pointing a webcam at yourself you could control movement without the use of limbs. Unfortunately, because of its potential negative impact I will not be developing it further. 

User101 told Waypoint he was motivated to create User Vision Pro because of how many cheats are already out there. "Every single time I get killed I question whether or not it was a Pro Player with tremendous situational awareness and extreme accuracy or just a hack," he said. Which sounds like an explanation for why you'd want there to be less hacks, rather than more, but what do I know.

Forza Horizon 5 will have ray traced audio and much improved engine sounds Forza Horizon 5

Posted on July 14, 2021 by


Forza Horizon 4 was a brilliant racer with some pretty piss-poor engine sounds, according to parts of the fanbase who really care about engine sounds. Those protests have been loud enough for Playground Games to hear, because Forza Horizon 5 is getting 320 new car recordings on top of what's already in 2019's instalment. The audio is gonna be ray traced too, run at 90 fps, and when you make a change or apply an upgrade to your engine you'll hear it immediately, in real-time.

The ray traced audio sounds like a real game changer: It means vehicle sounds will dynamically change based on the surrounding environment. Traffic sounds will change depending on whether you're in, say, a town, an underpass or on a plain. There's also a thing called granular hybrid looping. It appeared in Forza Horizon 4 for only 15% of the vehicles, but it'll apply to all vehicles in FH5. This tech draws from "thousands of little audio files" to react precisely to how the player is driving, and this is achieved at 90 fps.

The video above is a condensed demonstration of the new tech, and it benefits from being interesting even if you're not an audiophile or engine sound enthusiast. The Forza Horizon 5 release date is November 9. For the full livestream presentation check out the video below.

The Amazing American Circus delayed to September A clown on stilts is too tall

Posted on July 14, 2021 by


The Amazing American Circus is a deckbuilder that lets you run a travelling sideshow, trekking across 19th century USA, adding to your troupe and wowing the rubes at each stop. It looks a bit like Slay the Spire only instead of throwing poisoned knives at cultists you impress audience members by playing cards like Wild Clown Chase, Dangerous Act, or Smokey Kiss. There are also rivals to defeat, drunk mime artists to deal with, and it seems like werewolves and Bigfoot are involved too? Honestly, I stopped paying attention when the clowns showed up. No, thank you.

The Amazing American Circus went into testing in May, and the developers at Juggler Games/Klabater have been implementing changes based on feedback from those tests. To get all those changes in, it's being pushed back from its originally announced release date of August 12 to September 16.

Klabater's blog post explains, "Thanks to this we'll not only improve the gameplay, but we'll also get the chance to promote and show the game at the Gamescom in Cologne and PAX West in Seattle events. We hope that you will understand and accept this decision and will wait those few extra weeks for The Amazing American Circus!"

It'll be available on Steam and GOG, and you can find more details there. Unless you don't like clowns, in which case you'll see those white-faced monstrosities and close the tab pretty quick. 

Red Dead Redemption 2 DLSS update brings ‘up to’ 45 percent performance boost today Cowpokes riding out in Red Dead Online.

Posted on July 13, 2021 by


The long-awaited Nvidia DLSS update for Red Dead Redemption 2 has landed, and according to Nvidia you can expect remarkable performance improvements across the board with RTX cards. Nvidia writes that "all GeForce RTX gamers'' can expect over 60 fps at 1080p with settings amped up to ultra. Good news, as during our benchmarking the RTX 2060, for example, struggled to meet 60.

Nvidia provides a few examples of what you can expect with its 30 series cards. At 1440p with an RTX 3060 Ti at ultra you should get over 60 fps, while at 4k with an RTX 3070 (or faster) you'll achieve 60 fps with ultra settings. Once the patch has installed, you'll find the DLSS toggle in the Settings / Graphics menu.

Red Dead Redemption 2 released for PC in 2019 but it still puts even the new 30 series cards through their paces, with a fair bit of fiddling required between resolution, detail and framerate. With the DLSS patch, some of those compromises hopefully won't be necessary anymore—and it's especially good news for people still rocking 20 series cards.

DLSS stands for Deep Learning Super Sampling and uses AI to dynamically upscale both image quality and framerates. AMD launched its own alternative last month in the form of AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution (or FSR).

This new patch also applies to Red Dead Online, and coincides with the release of its newest update, Blood Money, which is all about the high-stakes bank robberies. 

Work on Apex Legends cross-progression slowed down by recent hacks Apex Legends Valkyrie abilities

Posted on July 13, 2021 by


Since Apex Legends season 9 kicked off a few months ago, the free-to-play battle royale has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. But as with any popular competitive game, more general attention has also attracted more prospective cheaters. The recent influx of nefarious players and DDoS attacks have become so disruptive in Apex that it's affecting development on a pretty big planned feature: cross-progression.

According to Apex Legends game director Chad Grenier, work on cross-progression has slowed as a direct result of Apex and Titanfall's recent troubles with hackers. Responding to a tweet seeking an update on cross-progression, Grenier said, "In development, although recent hacks on Apex and TF have slowed down the progress of it as we context switch to solving live game issues."

Cross-progression has been among the most anticipated features in Apex since crossplay was introduced last year. Players were excited to learn that they wouldn't have to repurchase every legend and cosmetic on their account to comfortably switch platforms, but the wait has been long.

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Even before the recent cheating surge, Grenier has been open about the difficulties of adding the feature. In February, Grenier told players that it's "certainly more challenging to add cross-progression to a game that's been out for two years." It sure sounds like a decent challenge—Overwatch and Rainbow Six Siege are two other FPSes that received crossplay years after release but have yet to deliver on cross-progression.

Cheaters and DDoS attacks have become a larger problem in Apex as of late and Respawn has committed to cracking down harder on rule breakers. One of the issues Grenier's tweet refers to is, I imagine, the July 4 hijacking of Apex Legends' main menu. Over the holiday weekend, hackers were able to take control of the game's playlist function to protest Titanfall server hacks and display the message: "SAVETITANFALL.COM, TF1 is being attacked so is Apex."

Respawn communications director Ryan Rigney later stated the hackers "achieved nothing of value" by attacking Apex and pointing out issues the studio was already working to remedy in Titanfall.

Considering only "one or two" people are working on Titanfall's server woes, it sounds like all hands are on deck to bring Apex Legends back to full strength. Back in June, Respawn security analyst Conor Ford said over 30 DDoS attackers were shadowbanned in a day. "We care and are just as frustrated as the players." 

Thanks, Eurogamer

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